He Got Game

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For the Public Enemy album, see He Got Game (soundtrack).
He Got Game
He got game poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Jon Kilik
Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee
Starring Denzel Washington
Ray Allen
Milla Jovovich
Cinematography Malik Hassan Sayeed
Edited by Barry Alexander Brown
Production
  company
Touchstone Pictures
40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s)
  • May 1, 1998 (1998-05-01)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $21,567,853

He Got Game is a 1998 American sports-drama film written and directed by Spike Lee. It stars Denzel Washington as Jake Shuttlesworth, a prison inmate convicted for killing his wife. He is also the father of the top-ranked basketball prospect in the country, Jesus Shuttlesworth, played by NBA star Ray Allen. Jake is released on parole for a week by the state's governor in order to persuade his son to play for the governor's alma mater in exchange for a heavily reduced prison sentence. Filming took place between July and September 1997, and locations such as Coney Island, Brooklyn, Cabrini–Green housing projects in Chicago, Illinois, Elon University, North Carolina, and Los Angeles, California.

Plot[edit]

Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), a student at Lincoln High School from Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, is being pursued by the top college programs in the nation. His father, Jake (Denzel Washington), is a convicted felon serving time at Attica Correctional Facility for accidentally killing his wife (Jesus' mother) by pushing her while arguing with Jesus at the age of 12. The father is temporarily released by the governor, an influential alum of "Big State," one of the colleges Jesus is considering, so that he might direct his son to sign with the governor's college in return for an early release.

While seemingly a sound plan, it turns haywire as we realize the strained relationship between Jesus and his father. Upon his first moments outside of prison, Jake touches base with his daughter Mary Shuttlesworth (Zelda Harris) who is happy to see him. Mary invites her father up to the apartment where she and Jesus now live, having moved out of their Uncle Bubba's place. When Jesus returns home he is unhappy to see his father and refuses to look him in the eye as he tells his sister to get rid of the "stranger" in their living room. Jesus then later agrees to meet with his father at an alternative location away from Mary. Throughout the movie Jake attempts to persuade Jesus to attend "Big State" with seemingly no success. Eventually he divulges the deal set up by the governor but Jesus appears unsympathetic to his father's situation.

Intertwined with the story of the Shuttlesworth family is the sub-plot of Dakota Barns (Milla Jovovich) a prostitute who stays in the room next to Jake in the run down hotel that the warden has set up for him. Dakota is being abused by her current boss/lover and Jake overhears the domestic violence through the thin walls. Throughout the movie Jake is seen helping clean her wounds, and he (Jake) gave her some of the money that was set aside for him to survive the week out of prison. Dakota is seen in one of the final scenes of the movie taking a greyhound bus away from New York City.

Jesus finds himself tempted with offers of cash and women on recruiting visits to big time programs. He also weighs heavily the option to declare for the NBA and immediately lift himself and his sister out of poverty. Ultimately, Jesus decides to sign to play for "Big State".

Cast[edit]

For the role of Jesus, Lee had drawn up a list of every NBA player who could pass for a high school senior. Kobe Bryant had off-season commitments. Lee found Tracy McGrady too reserved and was not impressed by Allen Iverson's performance. Management for Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury wanted a guarantee that one or the other would be offered the part. Travis Best, Walter McCarty, and Rick Fox also auditioned and Lee cast them in supporting roles. Allen became involved when Lee approached Allen during halftime of a Bucks-Knicks game, ultimately offering him the role of Jesus. Allen had never acted before, and so he trained with an acting coach for eight weeks prior to filming.[1]

NBA players Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Bill Walton, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley, NBA coaches Rick Pitino and George Karl and broadcaster Dick Vitale made cameo appearances at one point early in the film.[2]

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

He Got Game was produced on an estimated $25 million budget.[citation needed] In the opening weekend of its release, it was shown on 1,319 screens, and took in $7,610,663 at the U.S. box offices debuting at #1.[3] It eventually grossed a total of $21,554,585.00

Critical response[edit]

Response to the film was largely favorable, with review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes showing it receiving 80% favorable reviews, praising Lee's artfulness, commentary, and honest connection to human characters. Negative reviews focused their criticism on the film's length and Lee's overindulgence, with Time Out London writing, "Most scenes play too long, with a surplus of ideas, textures, tones and characters, and after 134 minutes it's clear Lee's problem with closure hasn't gone away."[4][5] Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half-stars, and called it Lee's best film since Malcolm X. He was particularly encouraged by Lee's determination not to adhere to typical conventions.[6]

Both Ray Allen and Washington drew praise for their performances,[7] with Roger Ebert writing that Allen "is that rarity, an athlete who can act," and Slate magazine writing that Washington's performance was "gorgeously underplayed".[6][8]

ESPN's review pointed out factual flaws in the story: "...coaches aren't allowed to discuss potential recruits until after the signing period. Come on, Spike. (And while we're at it, players aren't allowed to visit a college one week before the signing deadline; Jesus couldn't live alone with his sister without both of them being thrown in a foster home; and there's NO WAY IN HELL that Jesus wouldn't have just turned pro if he was that good and that broke.)" [9]

Soundtrack[edit]

Further information: He Got Game (soundtrack)

The soundtrack for He Got Game was composed of numerous orchestral pieces by Aaron Copland with songs created by Public Enemy. It was released by Def Jam on April 21, 1998.

Awards and nominations[edit]

1999 Acapulco Black Film Festival
  • Best Actor — Denzel Washington (nominated)
  • Best Director — Spike Lee (nominated)
  • Best Screenplay — Spike Lee (nominated)
  • Best Film (nominated)
  • Best Soundtrack (nominated)
1999 NAACP Image Awards
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture — Denzel Washington (nominated)
  • Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress — Zelda Harris (nominated)
  • Outstanding Motion Picture (nominated)
1999 MTV Movie Awards
  • MTV Movie Award Best Breakthrough Male Performance — Ray Allen (nominated)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "He Got Game (1998)". Thisdistractedglobe.com. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  2. ^ “”. "Jesus Shuttlesworth". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  3. ^ Weekend Box Office Results for May 1-3, 1998 - Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "He Got Game Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". Timeout.com. 2005-04-06. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  5. ^ "He Got Game Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  6. ^ a b "He Got Game :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  7. ^ By (1998-04-27). "He Got Game Review - Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie He Got Game". Variety.com. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  8. ^ Edelstein, David (1998-05-03). "He Got Balls - By David Edelstein - Slate Magazine". Slate.msn.com. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  9. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/movies/hegotgame

External links[edit]